Interview with brand identity expert Melissa Madgwick

Interview with brand identity expert Melissa Madgwick

The other day I had the pleasure of meeting Melissa Madgwick, the Founder of Brand Dominance in Perth, Australia. Her firm has made a name for itself as a brand identity and design leader in Australia and across the world.

After reading one of Melissa’s posts on LinkedIn, I knew she had valuable insights to share with Minnesota marketers. Let’s take a minute to get to know her and learn how brand personality has helped her create explosive growth for herself and her clients.

The basics

Tell us your background.

"I have a marketing degree and have always been very interested in consumer behavior and why some businesses make a big impact while others don’t grow. One of my first marketing jobs that I really enjoyed was working with a large market research firm in Australia that serviced major Australian companies from retail to banks and telecommunications companies.

While working with a telecommunications company in Australia, I realized how much money was being spent on market research, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars. At this company, I saw how the board of directors would sit on the other side of the glass and listen. I praise that company because they turned themselves around and went from having a bad reputation to being well-loved.

My role was to take all of this systematic information and turn it into something great-looking. I just learned the power of having something visual, having a clear, concise message like these market research people. That’s where it started for me with a rare mix of marketing, design, and branding know-how.

In 2013 I had the urge to start my own business and started creating presentations for executives. Shortly after, I was diagnosed with polycystic fibrosis. This hurt my health and my self-esteem. I remember going to one particular contract job, stepping off the train, and seeing my face in the mirror. It was full of acne, and I said, “I just can’t face people.” I lost a $3,000 job that day, and I went home and said, “I’m going to start my own business.”

Since I knew brand identity and visual communication, my first step was to look as big as the companies in Sydney. This meant creating a parallax look, which was just catching on in Sydney at the time. My team and I created a look that projected high-end yet affordable. Within a few months' time, I was landing $40,000 contracts from my kitchen table because of having a strong brand identity and sales skills."

What are you working on right now?

"At the moment, we are targeting a lot of speakers and businesses for rebranding, but also presentation design. I started out as a presentation specialist, and presentation is just the same as if you’re creating a new brand identity or brand. You’ve got a story; you need the market or your audience to connect with you, and, in turn, once that happens, it will grow your business, your revenue, and everything else.

We’re actually doing an email campaign to target all different speakers around the world and different businesses to help them with their pitch documents. And then, also, I’m doing exactly what you’re doing, which is cool. I’m actually starting my own show called "The Brand Dominance Project," with some large, influential people around the world on the importance of their visual identity, how that’s helped them, their sales tactics, branding, and presentation. Because a lot of these people are very good speakers, they have that brand, they’ve got that personal brand. So I want to teach people, share that knowledge with my sort of audience as well."

Now that we know more about you, let’s get your opinions.

What are the biggest brand identity and branding mistakes that companies are making today?

"The biggest brand identity mistakes that companies make, I guess not sticking to their values. I think a lot of businesses and brands have to understand why they exist and what they stand for. Because as you know, copy and images and everything is left on the internet forever. There isn’t any delete button. So if you’re doing a campaign that doesn’t stick to your values and you’re just doing it to make money or something, it’s not going to be long-lasting.

You have to understand what your market is and get to that bottom line of what they want, because that's what it’s all about. Every business, I feel, is coming from a place of service. Well, the best businesses do, the biggest ones do. They come from a place of service; how can they serve their market better."

Why is this happening?

"I think a lot of businesses are afraid to tell their story or just have a human connection. People want to know about you, want to know about the founder.

You’ll see the biggest businesses out there; they’re always going back to the founder and people connecting with him or the story or the whatever it is. I think brands need to be just a little bit more vulnerable and personable in this day and age because I think we’re craving human connection because we’re not connecting with humans like we used to anymore. We’re connecting with humans through a screen, so we want our screen and the copy on a page, or a brand, to be more personable, like talking like a human, if that makes sense.

But, too many companies are afraid to tell their story and express human emotions."

When you look at the marketing landscape in 2018, which concepts, methods, or tools excite you the most?

"We have so much connection now, and I think that’s exciting. Things like LinkedIn can help you connect with anyone. Sometimes it might take 16 touchpoints to connect with the person you’re trying to reach. I think that sometimes people are so scared to connect with others, but that’s the best way to grow a business.

There’s so much opportunity, but people aren’t tapping into it. Likely because there’s so much self-doubt. But, you need to reach out to people because, at the end of the day, they’ll either tell you yes or no."

Which concepts, methods, or tools need to die?

"I think, for the most part, old-school sales tactics. Getting into people’s faces with ads all the time. Our attention span is terrible now, so anything that’s fighting for attention needs to change. Even SEO could die in the near future since it’s so expensive to even try to rank on the first page of Google, it isn’t always feasible."

What’s the one thing our audience can do to push their marketing to the next level?

"The thing that’s pushed me to the next level is being myself. I was very scared about getting out there, and I was hiding behind my business a lot. My first business was called Digital Graphic Design because it was great on SEO, but there was no Mel.

The thing that I’ve realized now is that being raw is the key. I create a video that told my personal story, and I got so many leads from that video because I was telling my story.

So, making sure that your visual brand identity and copywriting are working together is a fantastic way to ensure that your marketing has an impact."

Lightning round

Favorite marketing book: "Zag" by Marty Neumeier
Favorite fiction book: "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee
Software you can’t live without: Screencast-o-matic
Hardware you can’t live without: My wireless headphones
Food you could eat every day: Chocolate
Song/band that pumps you up: INXS

The wrap-up

There you have it! A fantastic interview with a fantastic brand identity expert. Personally, I appreciated Melissa’s focus on telling your own story. This actually inspired us to change our about page completely, and I’ve gotten great feedback on it.

We’re looking forward to seeing what Melissa does next. Connect with her on LinkedIn.